The Conferencing News blog was kind enough to reference my last entry about following up with meeting attendees (and registrants). Because the two instances I mentioned were both cases where I was called by conferencing technology providers, CN assumed that I was sanctioning conferencing vendors contacting registrants of their clients' events. I appreciate their concern and hasten to fully support their position.
In NO INSTANCE is it appropriate for a web conferencing provider to steal leads from a client event and use those leads for their own promotional activities. In both the cases I mentioned, the events I signed up for concerned the technology and the services offered by the providers. Therefore the companies had a right to expect me to be interested in their information.
Rapid follow up with your audience is appropriate if you are offering additional information related to the subject matter that they have already expressed an interest in by registering. You should be offering value, not trying to extract value from your audience. Sure, we all know that the goal is to make sales and improve your revenues. But if you want people to give you money, you'd better put something on the table first that is seen as worthwhile!
If you are a metal fabrication company and you offer a webinar on the benefits of cold rolling sheet fabrication techniques, it is entirely appropriate and beneficial to write or call your webinar registrants with an offer of a white paper on the subject, or a copy of the slide set that was used in the presentation, or a link to a recording of the event, or just a simple offer to answer any questions they might have had on the subject. It is not appropriate for your conferencing vendor to call and ask them whether they would like to buy the underlying technology that was used to deliver the webinar.
The gray area is when you get to events that are specifically sponsored by and clearly identified as being delivered as part of a webinar vendor's promotional and educational series. I have participated in events with several vendors where they front the costs of using the technology, promoting the event, and managing the production aspects. The events are free for registrants and are labeled as a corporate offering from the vendor. In this case, attendees would be naive to think that the sponsoring company would not use the opportunity to reach out to people who came to their events. Next week I'm giving a presentation on speaking skills for online presenters. iLinc is sponsoring and hosting the event. I can tell you that my content is real information and education - not a sales pitch for my services or iLinc's. But I would be surprised if iLinc didn't leverage the interest in their own series by asking their registrants if they'd like more information on the technology.
We live in a commercial society. Businesses are expected to grow their client base and their revenues. There's nothing wrong with pursuing this goal if you offer value for money. If you just go around annoying and pestering your potential customers, you'll find that the results will be self defeating quickly enough.